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‘Like A Bad Joke’: Female Competitor Reacts To Trans Weightlifter Competing In Olympic Games

"Life-changing opportunities are missed for some athletes — medals and Olympic qualifications — and we are powerless."
Belgian athlete Anna Vanbellinghen competes in the Women's +87 kg final on the last day of the Weightlifting European Championships 2021 in Moscow, Russia on April 11, 2021.
Sefa Karacan/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

It’s looking like female weightlifter Anna Vanbellinghen is going to compete in the upcoming Olympic Games against Laurel Hubbard, a former men’s weightlifting competitor who now identities as a woman — and Vanbellinghen is not too thrilled.

The Belgian weightlifter likened the prospects of Hubbard, who is a biological man, competing in the Games to “a bad joke.”

“First off, I would like to stress that I fully support the transgender community, and that what I’m about to say doesn’t come from a place of rejection of this athlete’s identity,” Vanbellinghen said earlier this month. “I am aware that defining a legal frame for transgender participation in sports is very difficult since there is an infinite variety of situations, and that reaching an entirely satisfactory solution, from either side of the debate, is probably impossible.”

“However, anyone that has trained weightlifting at a high level knows this to be true in their bones: this particular situation is unfair to the sport and to the athletes,” the athlete emphasized.

Since Hubbard physically developed as a man before transitioning, the trans weightlifter is at an inherent unfair advantage over biologically female competitors, said Vanbellinghen. “So why is it still a question whether two decades, from puberty to the age of 35, with the hormonal system of a man also would give an advantage?”

“I understand that for sports authorities nothing is as simple as following your common sense, and that there are a lot of impracticalities when studying such a rare phenomenon, but for athletes the whole thing feels like a bad joke,” Vanbellinghen continued.

“Life-changing opportunities are missed for some athletes — medals and Olympic qualifications — and we are powerless.”

Hubbard notably took silver in the 2017 world championships, sparking outrage from proponents of women’s sports and fellow athletes. The athlete responded by highlighting so-called “evolving” “science.”

“As an athlete, all I can really do is block that out,” Hubbard told a New Zealand radio station in 2017, referring to criticism. “If I try and take that weight on board, it just makes the lifts harder. All I can really do is just focus and lift.”

“The science is evolving, and the position of the IOC is evolving too,” the weightlifter added. “What most people probably don’t realize is that I actually satisfy the requirements of the 2003 Stockholm consensus, which were the original rules that the IOC agreed upon to allow participation of people like myself. So I am not competing under a recent rule change. I am competing under rules which have been in place now for 14 years.”

As highlighted by The Daily Wire, Hubbard released a statement reacting to the news that the weightlifter will be able to compete in the upcoming Olympic Games against biological women. “I am grateful and humbled by the kindness and support that has been given to me by so many New Zealanders,” Hubbard said.

Related: First Openly Transgender Athlete Will Compete In Olympics After Dominating Female Weightlifting Competitions

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